It’s a shame, really, how quick we are to criticize Martha of Bethany for her busyness. Maybe it is because we feel the prick of conscience over our own crammed-full days, and the nagging sense that we are losing more important things in the rush. We can relate to her, and when Jesus tells Martha to stop fussing and come sit down with Him we feel the indictment in our own souls…know how long it has been since we have truly listened to Jesus’ words, let them sink in and take root…how hard it is for us to just enjoy His presence…how impossible it seems to find enough space and peace to hear the quiet voice of His Spirit.
But in our wry admission that we should probably learn to be more like sister Mary, we miss some important details in the story. Like the fact that Jesus’ tone of voice was probably not nearly as accusing as the one we level at ourselves. Do we really think that the Person who looked right at a woman caught in the act of adultery and refused to throw a stone at her– looked her in the face and said “…neither do I condemn you….Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11)— that this same Person would look at a woman working hard to serve a houseful of tired hungry guests and rebuke her harshly? We may not be able to hear His original tone of voice, but we do know the nature of the One speaking. We know that He loves Martha and her family. We know He will say just the right words in the right tone to reach through Martha’s frazzled state to her heart. Because that is Who He Is.
And let’s not miss the surprise and consternation of everyone in the room, at the fact that Jesus is inviting the women of the household to sit down with them as students and followers– something unheard of for a Teacher in the ancient Jewish culture. Martha was only voicing what every man there was already thinking about the impropriety of her sister, and Jesus took the opportunity to turn their cultural norms upside-down. This story is much more about Jesus valuing women and accepting them into the Kingdom as full equals to men, than it is about Him settling a domestic quarrel. He was always about the Father’s business, and still He calls us, as women, to lay down our To-Do lists and find our strength and hope in Him alone.
We can also lose sight of the fact that Martha was an admirable hostess. In a culture that valued hospitality and showing honor to guests, she was doing exactly what she had been taught to do, and doing it well. And there is every indication that she took Jesus up on His invitation to sit and learn along with the men, because it is she who verbalizes her faith in Jesus so powerfully beside the grave of her beloved brother: “I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask….I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (John 11:22, 27) When we next see her, she is still in the kitchen serving, right where she feels most comfortable, doing what she does best out of love and thankfulness to her Teacher and Lord. Knowing Jesus’ heart for people, we can be sure He took the time to praise her cooking and express His appreciation for her service. Martha has taken the time to listen and know Jesus, and now she knows herself better too. We might benefit from following her example.
We find Jesus speaking peace to our own rushed and stressed hearts in this story, letting us know that He values what we do, but He so much more values who we are and how we are growing. He calls us away from the expectations of others, and the cultural values by which we measure ourselves; He calls us into His freedom where the only standards are growing to be more like Him, and Grace covering all our shortfall. In His eyes what matters is my bearing the image of God in this world, and learning to know Him better each day. In His eyes, what matters is the way I serve Him in love, with the abilities He gave me…the way I come alongside others and help them to see Him better. These are the important things that will last forever– “the one thing worth being concerned about… that will not be taken away…” (Luke 10:42)
So He will continue to say to us, patiently, gently, as often as we need to hear it: “My dear…you are worried and upset over all these details!” (Luke 10:41) Stop trying to measure up and come and rest in My love.
**Title taken from Matthew 11:28-30 in The Message.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.Colossians 3:15-17
To hear Your voice,Rest, Kari Jobe
To call You friend,
To know Your thoughts–
How rare how beautiful.
You’re with me here;
I feel You breathing;
You’re closer than I thought was possible.
So I’ll rest right here with You.
So I’ll rest right here with You.